Pre-Race Warm-up Routine

An aspect of race preparation that often gets overlooked in regards to its importance is the pre-race warm-up. This article will outline a basic warm-up routine in preparation for the 100/110m hurdles, as that race usually comes before the 300m/400m hurdles in most meets. Warm-up advice for the long hurdles will be included in the latter part of the article.

Firstly, before getting into the specifics, let’s start by identifying the reasons why the pre-race warm-up is so important to a hurdler’s ability to achieve maximum success. The warm-up is the time to prepare the body for the day’s activities, and to prepare the mind for the demands of competition. Racing is a much different experience from training. In a workout, you do multiple reps, and if you do something wrong, you can always try to fix it on the next rep, and the next one, and the next one. If you have a bad start, you can go back and do it over again. In a race, there is no time to think; you have to trust that the things you worked on in practice will be there when the gun goes off. The pressure of the “one and done” scenario of a race represents the biggest psychological challenge of race preparation in comparison to preparation for a workout.

Now for the specifics:

Start the warm-up about an hour prior to competition. If you’re not sure when to begin your warm-up and you’d rather not think for yourself, that’s okay. Just ask your coach, and when your coach instructs you to start warming up, start warming up.

If at all possible, at big meets, get yourself checked in and get your hip number and lane assignment before you begin your warm-up. The reasoning behind doing this is that you don’t want to be forced to break up the warm-up after you’ve started to work up a sweat, because then you’ll cool off, and have to start warming up all over again.

This is the basic warm-up I usually have my hurdlers do:

100/110m Hurdle Warm-up:
1) Jog a half-mile
2) Stretch for 20-30 minutes, being sure to breathe slowly as a means of calming the nerves, and also as a means to avoid stretching too fast.
3) Sprint Drills
· 2x25m A skips
· 2x25m B skips
· 2x25m duck-walks
· 2x25m high knees
4) 3x40m wind-sprints, each one faster than the previous one. Last one should be about 90% of full speed.
5) Switch into spikes.
6) 3 trail-leg passes over 5 hurdles, five-stepping with the hurdles on the regular marks.
7) 3 lead-leg passes over 5 hurdles, five-stepping with the hurdles on the regular marks.
8) 3 over-the-top passes over 5 hurdles, five-stepping with the hurdles on the regular marks. With all hurdle drills (#’s 6-8), focus on gradually increasing quickness and thrust, so that, by the time you’re doing your over-the-top passes, you’re feeling lightning quick.
9) 1 start, out of the blocks, over 1 hurdle
10) 1 start, out of the blocks, over 2-3 hurdles

The purpose of coming out of the blocks over one hurdle is to make sure you familiarize yourself with the blocks themselves, and also to ensure that your approach to the first hurdle is on point. The purpose of coming out of the blocks over two-three hurdles is to ensure that your 1-2-3 rhythm between the hurdles is on point. Don’t do too many starts prior to the race. It’s too late to fix anything, so the only thing you can accomplish by coming out of the blocks too often is to increase your anxiety level.

In the final minutes leading up to the race, after having completed your practice starts, do whatever you need to do to get your mind right. This might be a good time to just stand behind your blocks and visualize your race, or to close your eyes and remind yourself of all you’ve done to get this far, or to just say a short prayer to your God of choice. Also, remember to focus on breathing slowly, as most pre-race tension manifests itself in the form of taking shallow breaths, which increases the type of nervousness that prevents peak performance. I also feel it is very important, in those last moments prior to the race, to shun any and all interaction with your opponents, and with anyone else, for that matter. If you’re a socially-oriented person, then do your chatting and socializing in the early stages of the warm-up period. In those last few minutes, you’re approaching the moment when your coach cannot help you, your teammates cannot help you, your loved ones cannot help you. If it’s hot and humid, you have to deal with the fact that it’s hot and humid; if it’s windy and cold, you have to deal with the fact that it’s windy and cold; if the starter is an ignorant fool, you have to deal with the fact that the starter is an ignorant fool. You have to step into those blocks alone and run your race to the best of your ability. That’s what it always comes down to.

Sometime prior to warming up – perhaps on the drive to the venue, or when first arriving at the venue, or maybe even while stretching – you’ll want to talk with your coach and discuss the particulars of where to go to check in, what areas of the venue are and are not available for warming up, how to adjust to certain weather conditions, schedule changes, etc.

300/400m Warm-up:
Assuming that the high hurdles come first, and you have already competed in that event, then, for the intermediates, you’ll just want to stretch again for maybe ten minutes, and then do one or two wind-sprints, followed by a start out of the blocks over the first two hurdles, just to mentally reassure yourself that your stride pattern is where you want it to be.

If the intermediates is your first race of the day, then do all of #’s 1-5 listed above in the high hurdle warm-up, followed by one start over the first hurdle, and then one start over two hurdles, with both starts being done out of the blocks.

Final Thoughts:
Sometimes, because of space restrictions, etc., the preferred warm-up routine may not be feasible. In such cases, be creative, but stick as closely to your normal routine as possible. If you don’t have access to five hurdles, use as many as you can. If you don’t have space to set up the hurdles ten yards apart, then set them up quick-step style or something like that. As long as you work up a good sweat, get into a good hurdling rhythm, and get your mind ready to race, you’re good to go.

© 2006 Steve McGill

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